James Brown: funk, trading stamps, live album, arrests all covered in A&E doc

Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Entertainment News

ATLANTA — James Brown was more than a captivating, gutsy, groundbreaking musician. He was an entrepreneur, a civil rights activist and an inspiration for millions.

The longtime Augusta resident was also deeply flawed, a man who was built on personal and societal trauma, battled drugs and the IRS and ended up in prison twice.

Seventeen years after Brown’s death at age 73, Atlanta filmmaker and director Deborah Riley Draper crystallized the many facets of the legendary singer into a four-part documentary on A&E called “James Brown: Say It Loud,” which aired over two nights on Monday and Tuesday.

“He liberated the thinking of people who were oppressed,” Draper said in an interview Monday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He made people want to dream.”

Mick Jagger and Questlove, huge James Brown fans, served as executive producers on the project. They, along with the likes of LL Cool J, Chuck D, Atlanta producer Dallas Austin and Rev. Al Sharpton, voiced their admiration for Brown’s innovation, resilience and self-determination.

“James Brown is a reflection of the Black experience in the context of the United States of America,” said David Wall Rice, professor of psychology at Morehouse University in the opening minutes of the special. “That’s why James Brown’s story is an American story.”


The documentary features three of Brown’s children, his former tour manager and musicians who worked with him, such as Bootsy Collins and Martha High.

Both Deanna and Dr. Yamma Brown, his daughters, talked to Draper about the good times as well as how he would physically abuse their mom.

“I thought it was critically important that Deanna and Yamma set the record straight on who he was in their own words with clarity and authenticity,” Draper said.

At the same time, she added, “Their love for their dad is incredible. I love the fact they have continued his legacy through the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils in Augusta to train young kids to love music and share their gifts the way their father did.”


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